Many US citizens dream of making the move across the Atlantic to beautiful Norway. Perhaps you have great-grandparents originating here, maybe you just fell in love with the nature, or maybe you are concerned with the political turmoils in the US?
No matter your reason, moving from the US to Norway is a bit of a challenge, but we’ve got a detailed guide to the best methods of moving to Norway as a US citizen.
It’s quite challenging for American (US) citizens to move to Norway and get a residency permit, but it’s possible if you’re eligible for a skilled worker visa, apply for university in Norway, get married to a Norwegian citizen, or start a business in Norway.
As you can see, there are several different ways to be able to move to Norway as an American, but they all have their own challenges and hurdles that you need to overcome. But don’t worry, we’re going to use the rest of this article to guide you trough everything you need to know about moving to Norway as a US citizen!
No matter which option you chose, your main goal is to get a permanent residency permit. In all cases, the permanent residency lingers on your being able to be financially independent, so it’s simply impossible to move to Norway without a stable income.
You will also get a temporary visa to begin with, which can be upgraded for a permanent residency after you have lived in Norway for a certain number of years.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the 6 different options for getting a residency permit in Norway, allowing you to move from the US to Norway permanently.
Option 1) Get a skilled worker visa
One of the most common ways for American to get residency in Norway is by getting the skilled worker visa. This requires you to get hired by a Norwegian company, which is a bit more difficult than it sounds.
Norway is part of the European Economic Area, meaning that all citizens from any European country can freely move to Norway to accept a job. This leaves Norwegian employers with over 400 million people to potentially hire, so it’s not always easy to get a job here unless you have specific skills.
Hiring someone from outside of EEA or Norway is much more challenging and expensive for an employer, so they won’t generally do it if they have other options.
This means that you pretty much need to have an in-demand skill or education to get hired in Norway as an American without a prior residency or visa.
The short summary is that it’s entirely possible to get a skilled worker visa in Norway if you are a doctor, a software engineer, or other in-demand trades.
You will not be granted a skilled worker visa if you don’t have a higher education or specialized trade skills, even if you get a job offer from a Norwegian company. It’s just not possible to get a skilled worker visa to work as a waiter in a restaurant or for jobs like that.
There is virtually no demand for TEFL jobs (English teaching jobs) in Norway, so you won’t be able to get hired as an English school teacher for the most part. The big exception is at international schools, but competition to get these positions are fierce, and tend to require at least a bachelor degree in English literature or an equivalent.
So if you don’t have a university degree yet, read up on which jobs are in-demand in Norway, then consider getting a university degree in that sector to make it possible to move to Norway.
Option 2) Become a student in Norway
Another common method of getting a residency in Norway is by coming to Norway to study, then aiming to get hired by a Norwegian company as you finish your education.
The Norwegian student visa is granted to pretty much everyone who get accepted into a Norwegian university, and gives you the right to live in and work in Norway while you are getting your degree.
The student visa does not grant permanent residency, so you will want to get an education in an in-demand sector while you are in Norway. If you study things like engineering, you are virtually guaranteed to find a job as you are finishing your degree.
This allows you to go job hunting and networking while you are finishing your degree, and most likely get a job ready for when you are done with your education.
Again, aim for a university degree that actually leads to a job, such as nursery, engineering, technology, or anything related to energy (oil, renewables, gas etc.).
The tuition fee is between 80,000 NOK ($8,000) and 150,000 NOK ($15,000) for most degrees, on a per year basis.
This means that a full 3 year bachelor degree will cost you between 240,000 NOK ($24,000) and 450,000 NOK ($45,000) just in tuition fees!
And let’s not forget that Norway is a pretty expensive country to live in, and that you will need to pay for housing, groceries and everything else while living here.
You need to be able to prove that you have access to at least 128,887 NOK (around $13,000) in spending money per year if you want to study in Norway. These can be earned by working alongside your studying, or be in a savings account.
Option 3) Get married to a Norwegian citizen
If you fall in love with a Norwegian citizen, then you’re in for a much easier time being able to move to Norway as a US citizen.
Family immigration residency visas are available to anyone who get married to a Norwegian citizen, as long as you are both over 24 years old, and are able to get married within 6 months after moving to Norway.
Pretty much everyone is granted this visa, but it’s important to be aware that Norwegian authorities are actively making sure that no one commits a “green card marriage” as you call it in the US.
That said, if you’re genuinely marrying a Norwegian, expect to get your permanent Norwegian residency pretty easily.
There are a few check-boxes that need to be ticked though, including things like:
- The Norwegian citizen you are getting married to must have an income of around 300,000 NOK per year or more.
- The Norwegian citizen you are getting married to must not accept governmental help from NAV (Norway’s social security).
It’s still possible in these cases, but not automatically, and you need to apply and go trough additional hoops to get your residency granted.
It’s also worth mentioning that family immigration is a very complex field with hundreds of exceptions and detailed regulations, so we can’t cover it all here.
But it’s generally a pretty easy thing if you’re a US citizen (people from third world countries tend to have a more difficult time), and you’re actually genuinely getting married.
Option 4) Start a business in Norway
It’s technically possible for US citizens to move to Norway to start a business as a self-employed person.
The business does not need to be related to Norway per se, so you can move here to start a business, and get clients back in the United States if you want.
While it might sound easy at first glace, there are strict requirements that prevents many people from moving to Norway to start a business. Some of the requirements are:
- You need to have an income of at least 250,000 NOK ($25,000) per year. This means that you must be able to generate this income even in your first year of operations.
- You need to be able to prove that you can actually make the 250,000 NOK in your first year, so be prepared to have a detailed business plan.
- You need to understand Norwegian business regulations, how to pay taxes on behalf of your company etc. This is not as easy as it sounds. You can pay someone to help you out, but this will obviously cost money.
- UDI (The Norwegian Immigration regulatory service) need to be persuaded that your skills are actually in-demand enough in Norway that you are able to run a business here.
- You need to have at least 3 years of formal education in the sector you are intending to start a business in.
So the big thing is that you need to create a business where you can actually make enough money to survive on in Norway, and you need to be able to prove this to UDI.
So it’s possible to move to Norway to start a business as an American citizen, but it’s not as easy as you might have hoped it to be.
It’s also worth mentioning that the self-employed visas needs to be renewed on a yearly basis, and you will need to make at least 250,000 NOK every single year.
You can actually be evicted from Norway if your business fails or provide inadequate income on a given year!
Option 5) Get a permanent residency or citizenship in a EU country
As mentioned earlier, Norway is part of EEA, allowing free flow of goods and workforce within all members of the EU and a few other European countries.
If you dream of moving to Norway, and are willing to spend years on the process, then you can potentially get a citizenship or permanent residency in a EU country, then freely move to Norway as a EU citizen!
Getting a citizenship in another EU country is easier said than done, but there are countries that are known to be more lenient about giving away citizenship than Norway is.
Unfortunately, my knowledge for the details of getting a citizenship begins and ends with Norway, but I hear that it’s far easier in countries like Malta, Portugal, Spain or the Netherlands.
And once you have a citizenship from any of these EU countries, you’re free to move to Norway as long as you are able to financially sustain yourself here.
Option 6) Get a job transfer to a position in Norway
Another option for moving to Norway as a US citizen is to get hired by an international company with a branch of operation in Norway, then apply for an internal transfer to Norway.
This sounds like a big hassle, and it sure is. But if you’re already working for an international company with offices in Norway, you might want to check out if it’s a possibility to get a transfer.
Even if you are currently employed by a company who operates in Norway, you have no guarantee that you will be able to transfer, or that they even would need your skills for a job in Norway. But I just wanted to mention that this is certainly a possibility for the small number of people who are in this situation.
The company will still have to apply for a skilled worker visa on your behalf, but it’s definitely much easier for you to get this done as a current employee that don’t need to apply for a new job.
The different visas and residency cards all have hundreds of exceptions, regulations and details
It’s important to remember that this article is a rough introduction to how a US citizen can permanently move to Norway to begin a new life, and that it’s in no way a complete guide.
Immigration law is a very complex field, and even immigration lawyers have a hard time understanding all the laws and regulations.
So if you are serious about moving to Norway, you will want to start the process and learn more details about the method that is your number one choice. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s website is the best place to start, and they have lots and lots of information about all the different processes and details.
Will a Norwegian heritage help you getting a residency permit in Norway?
There are more Americans with a Norwegian ancestry than there are Norwegians in Norway, which means that millions of people feel connected to Norway trough their ancestry.
I often hear the rumor that American citizens are allowed to move to Norway if they are able to prove their Norwegian ancestry, but this is simply a myth. Your ancestry, race, religion of affiliation with Norway does not affect your chances of getting a Norwegian residency.
So unfortunately, it won’t matter that your heritage DNA test showed that you are 5 % Norwegian or anything like that.
The big exception is for anyone who’s the child of a Norwegian citizen. These children are normally granted Norwegian citizenship and passports without any additional requirements.
Is there a retirement residency in Norway?
There is no retirement residency available to US citizens in Norway, so it’s unfortunately very difficult for US citizens to retire in Norway, even if you get a steady income from your pension.
The best way to be able to live in Norway during your retirement is to get a permanent residency in Norway before you retire. This grants you the right to stay in Norway for as long as you can sustain yourself, which allows you to live here and live off your pension.
Another option is of course to spend up to 90 days in Norway as a tourist every year, then spend the remainder of the time in another country.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.